Special Broadcasting Service, May 24, 2018
The NSW opposition leader, Luke Foley, has apologised for using the term “white flight” to describe changing demographics in Sydney’s west, hours after he defended it.
“I won’t use that term again. Some people find it offensive, so I apologise. I want the entire focus to be on growing jobs and building better schools and Tafes in these suburbs,” he told Ten Eyewitness News.
Mr Foley was forced to defend the comments made in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, which appeared under the headline “Stop White Flight”.
He told the NSW tabloid that “many Anglo families” are relocating from suburbs such as Fairfield because they lack the education, resources and employment opportunities to support huge numbers of refugees.
Earlier, the Labor leader defended the language, saying the issue is more about class than race, and that it’s an academic term.
“It’s an identifiable phenomenon in many western cities that reflect the changing cultural mix of many suburbs,” he told ABC radio on Thursday when defending his comments.
“This is a class issue more than a race issue.”
Mr Foley named Fairfield, Guildford, Yennora, Sefton, Granville, Regents Park as suburbs of concern where there were large numbers of Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
“I don’t want anyone to think you have to move out of those suburbs to do well in life, that’s what I’m fighting,” he said.
When asked whether he was simply engaging in dog-whistle politics, Mr Foley said he supported the refugee intake but wanted more services to support the communities.
NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley (left).
He also highlighted that he was the only NSW political leader who had ruled out any preference deal with One Nation’s Pauline Hanson.
“I won’t have a bar of her divisive race-based politics,” he added.
Meanwhile, One Nation senator Pauline Hanson praised Mr Foley for his “white flight” comments.
“I’ve been saying this and I said it twenty years ago, there would be places that we won’t even recognise as being Australian,” Senator Hanson told the Today show on Thursday.
“I said they’re forming ghettos and that’s exactly what’s happening. And people are starting to talk about it. Yes, they are … people are forced out of their homes that they grew up in … because they are not assimilating.
“We don’t put restrictions on that they must speak English, they must assimilate into our society, respect our laws and our culture.
“Good on Luke Foley because it needs to be debated.”